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Anthropology at UCLA

The UCLA Department of Anthropology has always taken a broad view of anthropology, maintaining both balance and integration among the four fields (archaeology, biological, sociocultural, and linguistic), which have traditionally characterized the discipline. Established in 1941, the department grew to prominence immediately after World War II and has consistently ranked among the top ten departments in the country, both for the distinction of its faculty and the quality of its teaching. Many faculty members actively engage in research and teaching in two or more fields, and many hold joint appointments in other departments and schools at UCLA. Indeed, Anthropology has ties with many other major departments in the university, offering a rich fare to graduate students.

Our faculty and students are dedicated to resolving fundamental questions that lie at the core of Anthropology as a field of intellectual inquiry.  Their work encompasses such topics as the nature of evolutionary processes, human development,  emotions and the mind, culture and communicative strategies, health and illness, the development of socio-political complexity across the historical and archeological record, and the impacts of differential access to power in the contemporary world.  To that end, we conduct research  in all parts of the world and engage in innovative collaborations that cross traditional sub-disciplinary and disciplinary boundaries. 

Our doctoral program is one of the best in the country. The department was recently ranked 6th in the nation by the National Council on Research. Our faculty has earned international recognition including election to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Their work is supported by grants and contracts from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Geographic Society, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the W.T. Grant Foundation, among others. They have been honored with fellowships from all of the major foundations that support social science research including the MacArthur Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Center for the Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Max Planck Institute, as well as with a multitude of book prizes. Their teaching and mentoring have been rewarded with UCLA’s Distinguished Teaching Award, many other campus teaching awards, and a host of national prizes.

The great variety and richness of the departmental curriculum may best be appreciated by looking at the four traditional fields of Anthropology.

The Four Fields Approach to Anthropology


Archaeology is the study of human cultures and the natural, social, ideological, economic, and political environments in which they operated in the recent and distant past. The graduate and undergraduate programs focus on methods of discovery (field and laboratory courses), strategies of analysis, and the hows and whys of long-term cultural evolution (theory, analytic, and topical courses).  It also looks at the unfolding of prehistory in many regions of the world, including North America, Mesoamerica, South America, and several parts of the Old World (regional courses). Faculty members have long-standing interests in paleolithic populations and the origins and evolution of complexity, including the political organization of complex hunters/gatherers, the origins of early village life, the emergence and florescence of ancient states, and life in ancient cities. Faculty members maintain programs of field research, involving many students, in Canada, California, Tibet, Mongolia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, India and Mexico. 

Archaeology faculty: Stephen Acabado, Jeanne Arnold, P. Jeffrey Brantingham, Richard Lesure, Li Min, Greg Schachner, Monica L. Smith, Charles Stanish


Biological Anthropology

Biological Anthropology is the study of humans and other primates from a Darwinian point of view. Our program focuses on the evolutionary ecology of early hominids, extant primates, and contemporary humans, and includes training in evolutionary theory, behavioral ecology, evolutionary psychology, paleoanthropology, paleoecology, primate behavior, and biobehavioral studies of the physiological bases of primate social behavior. Faculty associated with the program have engaged in field work in Africa and Central America where ongoing projects include work on human behavioral ecology, human ethology, primate behavior, and hominid evolution. For more information on this program see the biological anthropology subfield website. Faculty in biological anthropology have close associations with the Department of Biology and the School of Medicine. Biological anthropologists are also active in the Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life (CSEOL) which sponsors interdisciplinary symposia and weekly seminars and offers graduate and senior fellowships.

Biological Anthropology faculty: H. Clark Barrett, Erica Cartmill, Daniel Fessler, Joseph Manson, Susan Perry, Brooke Scelza


Linguistic Anthropology

Linguistic Anthropology is an interdisciplinary field which addresses the manifold ways in which communication and culture mutually define one another in different communities worldwide. Linguistic anthropologists at UCLA have a variety of backgrounds and research interests which include the ethnography of face to face communication, language contact and language change, verbal art and performance, and language and education. Courses are offered in ethnographic approaches to discourse analysis, urban sociolinguistics, field methods and conversational analysis, as well as cross cultural pragmatics, including visual aspects of communication.Linguistic anthropology students at UCLA may also rely on faculty in other campus departments to provide a variety of courses on language structure and language use. In particular, linguistic anthropology faculty have close ties with faculty in Applied Linguistics, Linguistics, Sociology, and with the Interdepartmental Program in Communication Studies. In addition, the Center for Language, Interaction, and Culture (CLIC) offers workshops, seminars, and conferences where UCLA students and faculty can exchange ideas and research findings with their colleagues at other institutions in the US and abroad.The weekly Discourse Lab  provides an opportunity to discuss current research by students, faculty, and visiting scholars.

Linguistic Anthropology faculty: Erica Cartmill, Alessandro Duranti, Marjorie Goodwin, Jennifer Jackson, Paul Kroskrity, Elinor Ochs


Sociocultural Anthropology

Sociocultural Anthropology deals with two different but closely intertwined aspects of the human scene: the structuring of social relationships through economic, political, kinship, and gender systems on the one hand, and the perceptions, attitudes, and sentiments which characterize the outlook of peoples on the other. Faculty and graduate students in the department conduct research on a wide range of theoretical questions about the workings of social and cultural systems by field research and comparative/historical analysis. Fieldwork—abroad or in the US alike—is considered an essential experience for all graduate students. Current faculty research projects are taking place across Asia and the Pacific, Africa, Middle East, North America, South America, and Europe.  As a distinctive emphasis within Sociocultural Anthropology, the Program in Psychocultural Studies and Medical Anthropology is offered jointly with the Department of Psychiatry (School of Medicine). Faculty and graduate students affiliated with the program participate in the “Mind, Medicine, and Culture” (MMAC) interest group. Another interest group bringing Sociocultural faculty and graduate students together is “Culture, Power, and Social Change” (CPSC).  As a forum to engage contemporary ethnographic research, CPSC explores issues of cultural production, links between political economy, power and culture, cultural constructions of ethnicity, gender, national and transnational identities, and the ways in which they impact social change in the world.

Sociocultural Anthropology faculty: Hannah Appel, Andrew Apter, Jessica Cattelino, Alan Fiske, Linda Garro, Akhil Gupta, Douglas Hollan, Christopher Kelty, Nancy Levine, Sherry Ortner, Kyeyoung Park, David Shorter, Susan Slyomovics, Mariko Tamanoi, Russell Thornton, C. Jason Throop, Tom Weisner, Yunxiang Yan